The Ingredient That Will Change The Way You Cook Meat Forever

When it comes to cooking meat, there seem to be almost as many tips, tricks, and hacks for achieving perfectly seared and juicy steaks, chops, and loins as there are cuts of meat. From bringing steak to room temperature before grilling it and brining pork chops to letting burgers rest after cooking and tenderizing meat with baking soda, there are lots of techniques home cooks can employ to ensure a delicious meaty outcome.

One of the most common strategies used in cooking meat is marinating it beforehand. Depending on the composition of the marinade, this pre-cooking soak can help tenderize meat and imbue it with flavor, according to The Spruce Eats. While different cooks swear by different marinade ingredients like pineapple juice, fish sauce, and chili paste, there's one often recommended meat marinade ingredient that just might surprise you –, and you probably have it in your refrigerator right now. Any guesses?

Marinating meat in mayonnaise results in flavorful meat

If you're used to smearing mayonnaise across a sandwich or using it as a base for creamy sauces such as remoulade, you might want to pick up a bigger jar the next time you go to the store, because this staple condiment is about to revolutionize how you cook meat. According to J. Kenji López-Alt, the eggy, oily condiment "may just be the most magical marinade ingredient" he's ever encountered, the food writer and New York Times contributor opined. López-Alt explained that mayonnaise-based marinades are a great way to pack flavor into meat before cooking it. 

Because mayo is mostly fat, it helps push fat-soluble flavor compounds in common aromatics such as herbs and spices into the meat, imbuing it with robust flavor before cooking. For cooking, López-Alt suggests seasoning meat with salt and pepper, combining some sauce or marinade with a spoonful of mayonnaise, and rubbing the mixture over the meat before letting it marinate. Any remaining marinade can be served with the meat post-cooking.

But it's not just about marinating

As J. Kenji López-Alt writes in the New York Times, mayonnaise is great for cooking meat — and not just for its marination potential. It's also great for how it helps meat achieve a great crust. He notes that spreading meat with mayo before cooking is a trend that started to percolate online a few years ago — and it works, improving the Maillard reaction responsible for the seared crust on meat and helping it to brown evenly without burning. As López-Alt explains, the protein and fat in mayonnaise brown quickly in a hot pan or on a grill, rapidly achieving a crust before thinner cuts of meat overcook in the center.

Meathead Goldwyn, founder of the grilling website, agrees that mayo and meat are a match made in heaven. "Mayonnaise really works," he told the Los Angeles Times. "It sticks really well to the food, helps release food from the hot grill surface, and gets a beautiful golden color." Rubbing meat with oil is a common technique to help meat brown and keep it from sticking, the article notes. But mayonnaise achieves the same result and adheres to the meat better, so it isn't as prone to dripping off and causing grill flare-ups that can singe the protein and impart off-flavors. So if you don't have time to marinate, grabbing some mayonnaise just before cooking meat is a great tactic.